Check out cov­er­age from the 2018 Ge­or­gia Steeple­chase. See Page A11

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Walker RN-T As­so­ciate Ed­i­tor

The inau­gu­ral Ge­or­gia Steeple­chase at Kingston Downs dodged a bul­let from the weath­er­man from the eques­trian per­spec­tive. The chilly ther­mome­ter cou­pled with brisk winds kept at­ten­dance to a frac­tion of what the thor­ough­bred rac­ing event has drawn in the past.

“At least it’s not rain­ing,” said An­thony Scott Hobbs dur­ing cer­e­monies to open the event he and his wife Phoebe Hobbs took the reins of last year af­ter the At­lanta Steeple­chase folded its party tent. “We’re ex­cited about try­ing to keep this tra­di­tion go­ing,” Hobbs the crowd. “It’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion. We’re look­ing for­ward to keep­ing some great mem­o­ries alive.”

Trainer Richard Hendriks said it was won­der­ful that the Hobbs- led group started the meet up again.

“At­lanta has al­ways been a spe­cial place for me,” Hendriks said. He rode as a jockey in the old At­lanta Steeple­chase be­fore turn­ing to the train­ing side of the in­dus­try over 20 years ago, and has been bring­ing horses to Ge­or­gia for most of those years.

The to­tal prize money avail­able for com­peti­tors in the four races was $95,000. Hendriks said the Na­tional Steeple­chase As­so­ci­a­tion had done a good job of try­ing to make sure the purses were as at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble. At one time years ago, the fea­tured race in the At­lanta Steeple­chase paid $100,000 in prize money.

“The more money you bring, the more horses you bring, the more peo­ple you bring into your sport,” Hendriks said.

Hendriks started the event right with his horses fin­ish­ing first with Gotta Get Away and sec­ond with Cheers to Us in the open­ing race, fol­lowed by an­other first place finish in the sec­ond race with Go Get the Basil.

Train­ers were vir­tu­ally unan­i­mous in their ex­cite­ment that the Ge­or­gia stop on the steeple­chase cir­cuit was still on the sched­ule.

“This place has a lot of po­ten­tial,” said Jack Fisher. “You look at the cham­pi­ons t hat have come out of this place.”

Fisher said the course was in great con­di­tion con­sid­er­ing no one had been tak­ing par­tic­u­lar care of it for much of the past year. The Hobbs group se­cured the rights to race last fall, about six months af­ter the At­lanta Steeple­chase shut down its op­er­a­tion.

Jonathan Shep­pard, an­other vet­eran trainer, said one of the best things about the race at Kingston Downs was that fans could see vir­tu­ally the en­tire race look­ing out from a ridge that over­looks a nat­u­ral bowl in a bend of the Etowah River.

“I haven’t missed too many years,” Shep­pard said. He said the prize money for the first Ge­or­gia Steeple­chase was “ac­cept­able.”

“There aren’t too many peo­ple in this think­ing they’re go­ing to make a lot of money, but at least there’s an op­por­tu­nity to get some of it back,” said Shep­pard.

Doug Walker / RN-T

Horses take the fourth jump on the six-jump cir­cuit at the Kingston Downs steeple­chase course Satur­day.

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